Tropical sun, jungle pushing back white sands. The sea salt smell and a howler monkey’s call interrupts the tinkling bird song. For me, Costa Rica is paradise. In this Costa Rica 10 day itinerary for relaxation, you’ll take a step back from the rush of work and everyday life.
I’ll show you where you can soak in natural hot springs, eat by candlelight under the stars and sip cocktails in front of the best view in the world.
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The main airport in the country is San Jose, so I’ve assumed that you are flying directly here. There’s direct British Airways flights from London Gatwick.
The journey from San Jose to Manuel Antonio will take about 4.5 hours. Once you leave the city, the views and scenery along the way are definitely worth driving through even if you didn’t want to visit somewhere else!
My ears popped several times as we climbed and descended mountains.
Check into La Mansion Inn. The hotel faces my favourite view in the whole world. Seemingly uninterrupted jungle down to Manuel Antonio National Park, with its protruding headland sloping up to a rugged cliff face. Occasionally, scarlet macaws will break up the green with their bright red streaks through the canopy.
You’ll be welcomed with a fruity cocktail and a tour around the hotel to help you soak it all in.
Because the hotel is surrounded by trees, the hotel gets daily visits from capuchin or spider monkeys. The spider monkeys are mischievous and hunt for pineapple out of the fruity welcome drink. The capuchins are more brazen than this and shriek when they manage to steal sugar packets.
Get settled in your room, enjoy your balcony or garden and watch the wildlife go by.
Take a guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s Costa Rica’s most visited park and I know we’re sometimes wary of crowded places, this park shouldn’t be crossed off your list.
If you don’t take a tour, you’ll still see capuchins, pelicans, maybe raccoons and maybe coatis. With a guide though, you’ll see sloths, camouflaged iguanas, bats, Jesus Christ lizards that walk on water and maybe crocodiles.
Your guide will also have a telescope with them to give you the best view of the animals and allow you to take professional-looking photos, even with your phone!
Entrance to the park is $16 and guides can be booked by the hotel or directly with Tucanes Tours.
Once your tour is finished, you’ll be asked whether you want to be taken back to your hotel or spend the rest of the day at the park on the beach or wandering the paths. You’ll have to make your own way home after this.
Enjoy time out in your hotel or take a taxi into Quepos, a town that was built to service the United Fruit Company before it left the country.
This small town has a paved walkway along the seafront which goes from the town to a newly-built marina which also has some restaurants and shops. The birds squawk like crazy just before the sunset.
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In Manuel Antonio National Park, it’s so easy to view loads of different animals, including troops of these white faced capuchins playing around. . It does get busy, but booking a tour early in the morning with Tucanes Tours means that you have the best opportunity to beat crowds and see animals as your guide will point out bats, lizards, crocs or other animals that are hard to spot on your own. . And if you’re staying, I can’t recommend La Mansion Inn enough. The second picture was from our room showing our balcony with a view of the trees beyond. We’d see capuchins or howlers every day, without even leaving the room. Plus the staff are super friendly and the food is great. . Probably the best thing about the hotel though is the incredible view over the rainforest down to the National Park. Birds will glide in and out of view, calmly enjoying the sun. . The capuchins are adorable when you visit Costa Rica, or an absolute menace if you live there. One broke in to our guide’s house, opened the fridge and stole his parmesan cheese! . Would you like to live in a town with capuchins?
There are also restaurants within walking distance of La Mansion Inn, although I’d recommend getting a taxi back in the dark.
If you get to Café Agua Azul early enough you can bag a table by the open edge of the restaurant, overlooking the ocean. The menu is varied and super tasty. Like most places in Costa Rica, the portion sizes are generous.
“We’re here!” Exclaimed our driver as he pulled up at the side of the road that looked the same as every part of the road we’d been driving along.
To get to the second location on this Costa Rica 10 day itinerary for relaxation, you’ll need to take a boat across Lake Arenal. I’m not entirely sure how the boat and car drivers know that this section of the lakeside is the marina, as it is the same as the rest of the lake. No over-tourism here!
It was windy when Ben and I crossed, but the scenery is lush and green with the volcano imposing on the background.
Then a car will collect you from the other side to take you to your hotel.
Arenal Springs is one of the only hotels with private hot springs on the property. It’s quite American – you can ask for a golf buggy to take you and collect you from your bungalow!
You can see the clouds spinning around the top of the volcano from almost anywhere on the property. Toucans are regularly eating from the fruit trees that line the walkways.
The hotel has a spa, yoga classes and a great restaurant. If you want to chill for a few days, this is a great place to do it.
The springs have different temperatures, ranging from hotter-than-a-bath to slightly too cool to sit in for too long. There’s a swim-up bar which serves cocktails and light snacks.
Sometimes iguanas will soak up the heat as well around the pools.
Spend today hiking around Arenal or check out which excursions the hotel offer, which are from local companies.
Or, relax in the springs and drink cocktails with the iguanas.
Convinced you want to head to Costa Rica? Find out why it’ll stay on your bucket list, no matter how many times you visit.
Let your swimming costumes dry out for a few hours on the dry to Tamarindo.
This is the final location in this Costa Rica 10 day itinerary for relaxation, and the weather here can be completely different Arenal. It’s regularly over 30˚C and the sun beats down on the beach. Luckily, there are people with fresh coconuts in their cool boxes who will sell you a coconut for about £1.
The Hotel Capitan Suizo has an excellent sustainability programme and is deeply embedded in the local community. They’re also part of the Pack For A Purpose programme, where you can use any additional luggage space to bring items from the hotel’s list which will be useful for their schools, medical practises or community in general. I took polo shirts, geometry sets and lots of pens.
The hotel is a hotspot for howler monkeys because of all the trees around the grounds. They even have a sign to watch out for monkey poo! The hotel’s owners specifically wanted to build open gardens throughout the hotel’s buildings so that monkeys and iguanas could come and go as they please.
Gardens are one of the things you should look for when you choose a hotel in Costa Rica, click here for more tips to pick a perfect hotel.
If you’re lucky, baby monkeys will come within a metre of you!
Walk along the beach into the town. There are dozens of independent shops packed into just a few streets.
Update your wardrobe for surfer chic – there’s everything here apart from a jumper!
I bought a purple and gold light jacket to wear when eating dinner on the beach after sunset.
There’s also loads of interesting souvenirs. I bought a silver gecko charm for my bracelet that was handmade in the town. There’s also handmade wooden sculptures, coffee and the usual fridge magnets.
Cafes and restaurants are dotted in between the shops. I loved No 1 Bistro for lunch (they also do great cocktails) and Gallo Fino for dinner. Our favourite was what we called steak-on-leaf, which was a superbly cooked cut of steak with melted cheese on top, served on a leaf with salsa and guacamole. More commonly referred to as tenderloin tablita.
The hotel has a concierge service for sorting out activities for you, normally manned by Rita who has worked there since the hotel opened! She will help sort out boat trips, days out to Nicaragua and horse riding among other things.
Spend this morning horse riding along Playa Flamingo and Playa Conchal. The white sands on these beaches are much quieter than Tamarindo, although parts of Flamingo can be busy and have traders selling massages, clothes are jewellery. Sometimes you can see manta rays in the sea.
The rhythmic swaying side-to-side of riding in a Western saddle is both relaxing and empowering. A metre taller in the air the landscape sweeps out ahead of you but as you amble along in the heat you have the time to take it all in. Of course, if you’re up to it you can gallop along empty stretches of sand to feel the wind in your hair.
Take a private surfing lesson with Arena Adventures. This will start a couple of hours before high tide so you can get used to the rhythm of the waves and feel them build as you’re more able to stand on the board and ride to the shoreline. Our instructor promised that we’d be able to stand up by the end of the lesson and he was right!
It was a lot of fun to learn with just my husband and I. No one else could judge us or make fun of us for falling off! Plus it meant the instructor had more time with each of us.
Tamarindo claims to be the best place to surf in the world. I’m not sure about that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the best place to learn.
After all that hard work, treat yourself to a thick milkshake at Surf Shack and watch the pros on their TVs. This burger bar is run by an American who moved down to Tamarindo.
Sometimes immigration to a popular tourist spot can be a drain on their resources, but Tamarindo has only ever been in existence for holidaymaking. The area used to be owned by a small number of landowners who would come here for short breaks.
Take a last tour down the beach and around the town before sadly heading to the airport. Drink fresh smoothies in beachside bars and have pineapple for breakfast, it’ll taste better than ever before.
Fancy something a bit more adventurous? Check out my Costa Rica 10 Day Itinerary for Adventure.
For this itinerary you’ll need:
- Transfers between the locations, I’d recommend Interbus
- At least two swimming costumes!